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Florida House Votes to End Permanent Alimony, Bill Moves On to Senate

1361620_grungy_money_4 sxchu.jpgIn an 83-30 vote, the Florida House has passed Representative Ritch Workman’s bill designed to end permanent alimony in the state. House Bill 549 would not only prohibit new permanent alimony obligations in favor of long-term support orders, but it could also be applied retroactively to permanent alimony awards made in the past. This means Florida citizens currently paying permanent alimony would have the opportunity to reduce or eliminate spousal support obligations. The bill will now move on to the Florida Senate.

If the bill becomes law, it would reduce the length of time a court may award alimony payments to half of the length of the marriage absent additional written justification by a court outlining the need for a longer duration. It would also make it easier for those paying alimony to stop payments upon retirement and prohibit a court from ordering the paying spouse to live on a lower net income than the payee. Additionally, the law would prohibit a court from considering the income and assets of an alimony payer’s new spouse upon remarriage.

According to Florida Alimony Reform (FAR), a group that assisted in writing the bill, the law is necessary because current Florida alimony laws are unfair to men. 95 percent of divorced individuals paying alimony in the state are men and the financial burden of permanent alimony awards often prevent them from retiring. House Bill 549 was a compromise bill. FAR originally advocated for more sweeping alimony reforms.

The Florida Bar Association has publicly criticized the alimony bill and accused FAR of spreading misinformation. According to a press release written by David Manz of the Florida Bar Association’s Family Law Section, the proposed law is “far-reaching in magnitude and would have significant adverse and unintended consequences.” Although the Florida Bar reportedly agrees alimony reform is necessary, the organization claims FAR has exaggerated the purported lack of fairness in the current system. Manz also stated the Bar Association would support fair reform to Florida’s alimony laws.

In Florida, an alimony award is intended to maintain each spouse’s standard of living after a divorce. Because an award of alimony is contingent upon the financial needs of one spouse and the other’s ability to pay, alimony is not awarded in all circumstances. The length of the marriage also factors into any alimony awarded by a Florida court.

Although a permanent alimony award may be made at the discretion of a judge after a moderate or short-term marriage is dissolved, it is normally awarded to a spouse who is no longer capable of meeting basic financial needs after a long term marriage of more than 17 years. Florida courts are required to determine no other alimony award is “fair and reasonable under the circumstances,” before permanent alimony is awarded. For marriages which lasted between 7-17 years, there must be clear and convincing evidence permanent alimony is the appropriate award.

If you are facing the end of your marriage, contact Attorney Sandy T. Fox today. Our experienced Fort Lauderdale divorce lawyer can help. Sandy T. Fox focuses his practice exclusively on marital and family law. He will discuss your end of marriage rights with you and help you determine whether you have an entitlement and need for alimony. If you need assistance with you family law questions, contact Sandy T. Fox today through his website or call him at 800-596-0579.

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Broward County Judge Orders Man to Take Wife to Dinner, Bowling, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, February 21, 2012
Miami-Dade Judge Refuses to Recuse Herself from Custody Dispute Following Re-Election Fundraiser, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, February 6, 2012
Additional Resources:

Alimony Reform Bill Passes House, Heads to Senate, by Gary White, The Ledger

House Passes Alimony Overhaul Bill, by Mike Vasilinda, The Associated Press